UPDATE: See the latest updates about this discovery at Jordanian Lead Plates: Authentic or Forgery?
A few days ago we wrote about an interesting discovery of ancient sealed metal plates that were found within the last few years in Jordan, and are starting to create a stir among archeologists. The BBC News religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott just published more interesting details, and photos, of the plates, in a report entitled “Jordan battles to regain ‘priceless’ Christian relics“. The BBC also includes a set of 7 more detailed photos here.
Some additional details include:
- There are 70 or so “books” or codices in this collection, each between 5-15 leaves made from lead, and bound with lead rings.
- The leaves are about the size of a credit card.
- Some experts and suggesting the books may have been made by early Christians in the years just following the crucifixion.
- There is uncertainty whether they are of Jewish or Christian origin, but several say there is evidence of Christian origin in the signs and symbols used in the books.
- Some purported symbols include a cross, a tomb, and the city of Jerusalem. A menorah is also seen as representing the holy of holies of the temple in Jerusalem, and the presence of God.
- One of the only lines of texts yet to be translated from the books says “I shall walk uprightly,” a line from the Book of Revelation? (I’m unsure what reference they are referring to). It’s been shown in the past that such a line is a kind of “worthiness” requirement for those who would ascend to the temple in ancient times (from Psalms 15).
Dr. Margaret Barker adds more commentary of what appears to be Christian provenance:
“We do know that on two occasions groups of refugees from the troubles in Jerusalem fled east, they crossed the Jordan near Jericho and then they fled east to very approximately where these books were said to have been found…
“[Another] one of the things that is most likely pointing towards a Christian provenance, is that these are not scrolls but books. The Christians were particularly associated with writing in a book form rather than scroll form, and sealed books in particular as part of the secret tradition of early Christianity.”
Again, extensive investigation must still be done by a host of experts before a solid understanding of the authenticity and meaning can be made from this discovery. But as the director of Jordan’s department of antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, notes, it could be “the most important discovery in the history of archaeology.”